Oregon State University (visited 7/16/13)
Oregon State sold us when they took us into their Special Archives and Research Facility on the top floor of the library to show us their Linus Pauling collection … and let us hold both his Chemistry and his Peace Nobel prizes. Pauling, who at 15 had earned enough high school credits to start at OSU (but was missing two required classes to technically graduate from high school), started taking classes. When he had to drop out in order to support his widowed mother and his siblings, the university offered to let him continue if he would teach introductory chemistry classes for them. Their generosity turned out well for OSU because they were given all of Pauling’s stuff(including both the Nobels) for their archives – which holds much more than this. They’re also known for their collections on the History of the Pacific, History of Science, and more. They’ll hire students as interns; the current curator is an alumnus who started as an intern and is now in his seventh year as a full-time employee.
The outskirts of OSU are not attractive (it looks like a stereotypical big state university), but the main part of campus is attractive and had a blend of old, renovated buildings and brand new facilities. There were five construction projects going on, including a new Business facility. Waldo Hall is one of the nicest of the old buildings; although it’s touted as having a “Harry Potter feel,” I don’t think it really does (although it’s beautiful – and supposedly haunted!). We passed by an amazing Living Sculpture called “Pomp and Circumstance” meant to convey a professor and several students. Completed several years ago out of birch, willow, and other branches, the willow branches have since started to regrow, making it a true living sculpture.
OSU’s Engineering department is perhaps the “flagship program” of the university. There are approximately 5000 engineering students (about 20% of the student body) with women and minorities making up about 20-25% of the program. Students start immediately Department, taking the basics for two years before specializing in one of 14 different areas. Their Nuclear Engineering program is one of 20 in the country, and Oregon State Troopers are stationed on campus because of the nuclear reactor. The Environmental Engineering program is a collaboration between agriculture and engineering. The Automotive Engineering program is amazing. Students form teams to create cars and race them in international competitions. Every student on the team has a chance to drive during the testing phase; the group decides who is the most skilled/fastest for the actual competition. They’ve won against hundreds of other universities, including Cornell and MIT. Outside of the classroom, there are 40 engineering-themed clubs and organizations that involve of hands-on collaboration and competition. Overall, 97% of the students who take the FE exam pass it; it isn’t required of all students because some don’t need it (the Biomedical students going on to med school wouldn’t take it, for example), but it is encouraged.
OSU is a land, air, sea, and sun grant school (Cornell is the only other school in the country with all four designations), and they are considered the state’s research university. Several of their programs (such as forestry and marine sciences) demonstrate their commitment to and strength in these areas. They also have strong apparel and interior design programs complete with extensive textile labs; their business and education programs also earn high marks from faculty, students, and outside ranking agencies.
It’s no surprise that sports are big here. The baseball team has made it to the College World Series, and football is a huge part of the culture here. Of the two students I spoke to, both said that their favorite school tradition is the way that students get tickets for games: they can camp out for 2 days before regular games and up to a week before the Civil War (aka the game between OSU and U of O).
During lunch with some faculty members, I asked what the draw might be for students coming from the East Coast. They agreed that students come here for the lifestyle. Corvallis has 35,000 students and has lots to do (they noted that’s it’s a big foodie haven). Outdoorsy people love it because of the proximity to so much from the coast to the mountains.
OSU, along with several other schools on the West Coast, uses the “Insight Resume” as part of the application. There are six short-answer questions required ranging in topics from Community Service to Dealing With Adversity. They use this to look at students’ involvement, realistic self-assessments, commitment to activities over time, and more. Students must submit standardized test scores; these are used in the admissions process if the student is on the bubble for admissions, and they’re used for distribution of scholarship and invitation into the Honors Program. To be considered for scholarships, applications need to be submitted by February 1, although admissions itself is on a rolling basis. They do not award WUE.
It was nice that the tour guides had to think about things they’d want to change about the school. One eventually mentioned that some of the roads could use repaving. However there’s not much driving allowed through the middle of campus (mostly delivery trucks come through). They like that parking is relatively easy: all parking is along the outskirts of campus and lots are big. Permits cost $200 a year. The school is expanding in many ways: they’ve hired 18 new faculty members, built a new business school, a new residence hall, and even a longhouse. There are currently 14 dorms (plus the new one opening soon), and students can apply for housing after they’ve been admitted. Roommates are selected through an “eharmony type of matching process” and can find their own. Campus is safe, with bike theft and minors in possession pretty much the extent of crime found on campus.